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September 14, 2014 / mintcustard

Jaffa cake slices

Jaffa cake slices.

Jaffa bars

Jaffa bars

I do love a jaffa cake, but the problem is one is never enough. Once the pack is opened they seem to vanish. Almost certainly into my mouth ready to be washed down with a bucket full of tea. So my theory behind these barsis, if I make them bigger than your average Jaffa cake I will need to eat only one, or two at a push. Well that’s the theory anyway!!!!

For the base
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g plain flour, sieved
For the filling
  • 1 x 135g/4¾oz packet orange jelly, chopped
  • 1 tbsp orange marmalade
  • 125ml/4½fl oz boiling water


  • 200g/7oz good quality chocolate, 100g milk, 100g dark

Preparation method

  1.  For the filling, in a bowl, mix together the jelly, marmalade and boiling water until the jelly has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Line your 6″ by 11″ tin with cling film. Pour the filling mixture into the tin  to form a 1cm/½in layer of jelly. Set aside until completely cooled, then chill in the fridge until set.
  2. Remove from the tray when set, place on a board and keep in the fridge until later.
Jelly layer

Jelly layer



  • Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl and beat continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture is pale, fluffy and tripled in volume.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  • Add the flour, fold in carefully.
  • Line the 6″ by 11″ tin you used for the filling with parchment. Pour in the batter.  Transfer the tin to the oven and bake the cake for 8-10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown and cooked through (the cake is cooked through when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.) Remove from the oven and set the cake aside, still in the tray, until cool.
Fatless sponge base

Fatless sponge base

  • When the jelly has set and the cake has cooled, lay the jelly layer over the cake.
Jaffa layer waiting for the chocolate.

Jaffa layer waiting for the chocolate.

  • Bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate and stir until melted, smooth and glossy, then pour over the cake.
  • Set aside until the melted chocolate has cooled and set.
  • Cut into bars and indulge.
Jaffa cake slice

Jaffa cake slice


September 7, 2014 / mintcustard

How to stop your student from starving!

So, last year I watched as the door closed on me and my eldest walked away into her future. I was petrified for her. I had spent the past 18 years keeping her fed, watered and alive and she was going to spend the next three doing the exact opposite. I should know, thirty years previously I’d done the same.

I shouldn’t have worried, after a successful first year and what seems like an endless summer break I am looking forward to her return to Uni.

She survived, so how did that happen? Well I don’t have a magic bullet but I can pass on what worked in this house, and it might work in yours too. No student needs to live on a diet of pot noodles, cheesy pasta or bowls of cereal, unless they want to of course.

  • Budget. Them and you. I got a “care package” organised for the older one to take. When I went shopping and essentials were buy one get one free, one was for us and one went in the box. Washing liquid, loo rolls, hand wash and shower gel. You know the sorts of things. Stick in a few treats – chocolate digestives and flying saucers here!
  • If you get your food delivered, take your student shopping. They will not have a clue! Look at the costs of things. If they only eat Heinz ketchup(!), then they have to economise elsewhere. Get them used to comparing prices and quantities.
  • Shop savvy. Supermarkets often reduce their near sell buy produce towards the end of the day. Pop in and check. Buy and freeze meat and fish for another day. If they have never been into Lidl or Aldi then introduce them to the concept!
  • Encourage market shopping and buying local seasonal produce. Cheaper and ethical.
  • Show them how to make basic recipes. Ones your family eat often. A ragu can be used for spaghetti, pasta bake, lasagne, shepherds pie, jazzed up to make chilli, popped in a baked potato. A basic white sauce is useful.
  • Portion control. Explain how much uncooked pasta or rice makes up a portion.
  • Introduce them to frozen veg. A few bags in the freezer will increase their vitamin intake to more than just the salad from a kebab. A handful or two in some stock makes a quick soup. If nothing else it will be usefulwhen someone falls on the way back from a night out and needs to ice the injury!
  • Show them how to bulk out a dish, with beans, with pulses and with grains. A pack of soup mix can make a soup, give texture to a casserole and at a pinch be sed to blind bake pastry.
  • Get every loyalty card going. Nectar points, clubcard points and a MyWaitrose card will all give the odd benefit or voucher. Useful and free.
  • Buy them a bag for life.
  • In my day it was a Toastie machine. This time around, the George Forman grill has been a revelation, and a slow cooker is also going into the student kitchen.
  • Be prepared to talk phone calls, emails and texts asking how to cook a family favourite. I explained Pommes Daupinoise via text last year.
  • Suggest that they share the purchase of  bulk items as a flat/house/group of friends. Set the rules up front, ie have a kitty or make sure everyone is prepared to pay their share by a certain day.
  • Some supermarkets (Sainsburys and Asda) have student/parent cards. The student has one half and the parent has the other. The parent can top up the card and the student can spend it. We aimed to just have perhaps ten pounds on the card. Useful for emergencies, and running out of vodka doesn’t count!
  • Be prepared to shop everytime you visit. Ditto take out to lunch or dinner.

They will survive. They may not eat exactly what you’d like them to, but after a week of pasta, passata and grated cheese they might just get online and read your blog to find out how to make one pot roast chicken dinners!


September 6, 2014 / mintcustard

Sausage and mushroom tomato bread swirls.

Baked and delicious.

Baked and delicious.

Starting back at school is always tiring, and I mean for the staff too, not just the children! I am completely wiped out and I work part time. Getting up earlier at the weekends than I do in the week as the older one has to be taken to work doesnt help. She isn’t being demanding but the store she works in has no car park for staff.

Having had sandwiches this week for lunch I reminded myself that there must be more to lunch than a flacid sarnie and a lukewarm yogurt. OK, the yogurtis myown fault as I forgot to put it in the fridge but the sandwich? Guilty as charged!

At school I need something filling, robust enough to last the morning in a plastic tub and portable enough to munch one handed as I invariably have marking to do with the other.

Pasties are one solution, look at my Hogwarts Pumpkin pasties, but I love bread so a riff on a bread roll should be good. I have enjoyed making and eating tomato bread so that is where I started.

Sausage and mushroom tomato bread swirls.

Ingredients makes 8 buns

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 25g butter
  • 50 ml milk,
  • 75ml passata
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 egg


  • 4 chipolatas skinned and broken up
  • 2 mushrooms sliced thinly
  • a few caramelised onions would be lovely here too.
  • 1 egg beaten

How to……

  • Sieve the flour into a bowl.
  • Warm the milk and passata with the butter and sugar. Remove from the heat.
  •  Stir in the yeast and leave to activate.
  • Once frothing pour into the flour along with the egg and combine.
  • Tip onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for 10 minutes, this is a sticky dough so you may need a little more flour but don’t use too much.

    Lovely pink tomato bread dough.

    Lovely pink tomato bread dough.

  • Leave covered with a cloth or cling film in a greased bowl for an hour and a half until doubled in size.
  • Cook the sausage pieces and the mushrooms in a frying pan as the dough rises and leave to cool.
  • Once risen, tip out onto a floured surface, and push or roll out into a rectangular shape about 12″ by 8″.
  • Generously spread the cooled sausage and mushroom mixture over the dough.
  • Roll up along the long side, cut into eight equal pieces and place on parchment on a baling tray and leave for a further 30 minutes to rise.
Waiting to bake.

Waiting to bake.



  • Pre heat the oven to 220 c
  • Brush with beaten egg and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until risen and golden.
Baked and delicious.

Baked and delicious.

  • Leave for a few minutes to cool as the interior is volcanic!
August 29, 2014 / mintcustard

Chocolate and macadamia crunch bars


I have been struggling to write this last week. I have no reason why. I have also been a bit lax on the baking and cooking front too. Still, the fact that not a single crumb of any baked good lurks in the kitchen has forced me to get back in a pinny.

I baked a favourite of ours, Chocolate and macadamia crunch bars. Macadamia nuts have the most pleasing texture. Crisp yet unctuous they make a great foil against the cruch and chew of these bars. The recipe comes from the Hershey chocolate website. I use the cookies and creme version of their Kisses when I make it, or just 200g of chopped up chocolate bar!

Chocolate and macadamia crunch bars


August 20, 2014 / mintcustard

Monday Pie – creamy chicken pie made with leftovers.

Monday Pie, ready for the oven.

Monday Pie, ready for the oven.

This recipe isn’t really for a specific size of pie. It is just a plan for using up your leftovers.

Being faced with the remains of a roasted chicken, cold and congealing in the fridge could put you off, but it makes my mouth water. I see the start of a Monday Pie. Stripped of any little chunks of chicken clinging to the bones, make a stock with the carcass. The recipe for chicken stock is here. Put the stock into the fridge if you want to use it later that day or fill an empty 1 pint plastic milk bottle with stock, lable and freeze.

If you have enough chicken to fill the bottom of a pie dish then that’s fine. If not you can use chopped up ham ends, mushrooms, vegetables or whatever you have to hand. Leftover stuffing and sausages work well in this pie too as well.

Pie filling.

Pie filling.

Monday pie – ingredients

Enough chicken, ham,  blanched vegetables, stuffing balls or bacon / sausagemeat to fill a pie dish.

Chicken stock

plain flour


salt and pepper

Shortcrust pastry – 200g flour and 100g butter or premade

1 egg beaten as an egg wash.

How to …

  • Make a white sauce using the chicken stock rather than milk. I’d make it a little thicker than shown in the video below, perhaps more the thickness of double cream.
  • Fold in the leftovers to the sauce and leave to cool completely.
  • Pre heat the oven to 200c
  • If you are making the pastry, do that now and leave to rest. If using shop bought then get it out of the fridge to warm up a little and become easier to roll.
  • Place the pie filling into your pie dish.

Filled pie dish.

Filled pie dish.

  • Roll out the pastry until it is the thickness of a pound coin.
  • Lay the pastry over the pie dish. Using a fork press the edges down to seal. Trim the excess pastry. I re roll the pastry and cut out shapes to decorate the pie. Leftovers can be pretty too.

Baked pie.

Baked pie.

  • Brush the pastry with beaten egg.
  • Bake for 30 minutes until the pie is golden and the pastry is crisp and flaky.

Dig in!

Dig in!


I’m adding this dish to this month’s credit crunch munch. Run by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All, it is being hosted this month byElizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

I’m also linking up to the No Waste Food Challenge started by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen and this month being hosted by Laura at I’d much rather bake than…


August 19, 2014 / mintcustard

Hosting a Barbecue off!

Hosting a BBQ off.

Hosting a BBQ off.

So the weather has been unpredicatable to say the least recently. That doesn’t put me off firing up the BBQ and it shouldn’t stop you either. Those of you who follow Mintcustard, and those who don’t will have seen that a number of my posts are based around my barbecue. I often try to use the barbecue to cook foods that you would usually expect to see coming out of the oven, pizza, baked sweet potatoes and even stuffed mushrooms

How lovely then to be asked by Waitrose to host a Barbecue off. Heston Blumental has created a number of different products for the barbecue.  Also on the Waitrose website there are a whole host of Heston recipes so you can create them on your barbecue at home. 

As you know I love to create new dishes when I cook, but this time the guests to Mintcustard mansions were expected to come up with their own inspiration and originality. And they would be competing with each other to produce the best, or most unusual creation. 

So many ingredients to choose from.

So many ingredients to choose from.

A wide variety of burgers and sausages were grilled and then people set to work.

Carrying back the burger.

Carrying back the burger.

First the breads. Should you combine burger and sausage under one bun? Would a cheese topped bap be better than a brioche bun for a burger. Can I forget the bun altogether and just wrap the lot up in a big iceberg lettuce leaf? The answer to all of the above is a huge resounding “Yes!” It really is a case of personal choice. 

Sausages varied from plain and simple chipolatas, favoured by those who wanted to ramp up the flavours of the accompaniments to spicy choriso sausages that could just be tempered by bun and mayonnaise. The revelation of the night in sausage terms, and that is a sentence I’ve not written before, were the bacon wrapped honey and rosemary ones. Just delicious and personally a brioche bun sets them off a treat.

Look at mine!

Look at mine!

What to put inside your bun? We had a variety of cheeses, dressings, pickles, chutneys, salads and of course ketchup, mustard and mayo. Should the cheese be melted or just placed over the meat. Does anyone eat the pickle?Me, I do!

Please don’t think we just had a meat fest, not that those are bad but we need vegetables too. As a starter we had chargrilled corn on the cob. I soaked the corn in their husks for a couple of hours, then put the damp cobs still in their husks on the BBQ. They steam in their own juices and once the husks are blackened all they way around, about 15 minutes, the cobs are done. We did also have a large platter of antipasti. The Heston inspired roasted shallot and star anise dip is surprising but in a good way!

Antipasti starter

Antipasti starter

Burgers and dogs were accompanied by a big bowl of sweet potato fries. More vegetables.

Sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries

So who won? Tom won the portable BBQ for inhaling a half pound burger, with Monterey jack cheese and a chorizo hot dog in a cheesy bun in seconds.

Thank you Waitrose!

Thank you Waitrose!

 Graham won the BBQ tool for eating 3 of his five a day in his meal – and lots of meat too I may say.



We had a pudding too. Baked banana split with chocolate and ice cream. Nice.

Waiting to be topped with ice cream.

Waiting to be topped with ice cream.

I know the weather isn’t too lovely at the moment but hosting a BBQ off is brilliant fun, and much easier than running a typical BBQ as your guests do all the work. Just provide them with a variety of ingredients and watch them go. I was asked by Waitrose to host this BBQ off, they provided me with vouchers towards the cost of the ingredients and the prizes for the best creations. I was not asked to write a positive review of any of their products or services, or provide links.


August 16, 2014 / mintcustard

Blackberry cheesecake brownies

Just waiting to be baked.

Just waiting to be baked.

Why make blackberry cheesecake brownies? Brownies need very little help, they are superb as they are. I love to use seasonal (and free) ingredients whenever I can, so you will find that blackberries feature heavily at this time of year.

I steep them in gin, put them in samosas and roll them in bread dough. In this case I have borrowed a brownie recipe from Ed Kimber on the Food Network website. As a result I will not be posting his recipe here as it is not mine to post. I swapped the raspberries in his recipe for blackberries. I also halved the quantities in the mix as we have no need to be tempted by a huge tray of brownies.

A few slices as a treat is sufficient. I love to serve brownies with creme fraiche as the acidity perfectly balances the rich decadence of this dish. Please try these blackberry cheesecake brownies. They are magnificent. Thank you Ed for your original recipe.

Cooling on the windowsill!

Cooling on the windowsill!

August 16, 2014 / mintcustard

Crunch topped tomato and basil swirl loaf.

Crunh topped tomato and basil swirl loaf.

Crunch topped tomato and basil swirl loaf.

I know that the sun isn’t shining at the moment but tomatoes seem to have the ability to store up the sun’s rays and then splurge them back out into any dish they appear in. Still, the chill in the air makes us crave carbs.  A slice of toast, a hunk of bread to mop up the pan juices, a sandwich for afternoon tea. I really love the juxtaposition of the crunchy with the soft. Delicious. It could also be that Bake off is back and next week is bread week too.

Ready to be turned into the best cheese on toast.

Ready to be turned into the best cheese on toast.


Crunch topped tomato and basil swirl loaf is a summery way to satisfy my need for bread. The cruch topping comes from a new range of salad sprinkles by Sainsburys. I, in my own usual fashion, decided to ignore the pack suggestion and come up with my own use for them. This loaf is the result.I used the Italian sprinkles on my loaf.

A selection of Sainsbury's salad sprinkles.

A selection of Sainsbury’s salad sprinkles.


500g strong white bread flour

120 to 150ml warm water

200 ml basil and tomato passata

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp dried active yeast

basil paste or green pesto

How to….

  • Place the warm water, sugar and yeast into a jug and leave until the yeast is activated and foaming.
  • Tip the flour and salt into a large bowl.
  • Add in the yeast mixture and the passata.
  • Using a round ended knife mix until the dough begins to come together.
  • Get your hands into the bowl and knead for a good 10 minutes. This is a very soft dough, but that is what makes the resulting bread delicious.
  • Leave in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film or in my case a shower cap! The dough needs to double in size.
  • Line a baking tray with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 200c.
  • Once doubled in size, tip out of the bowl onto a very lightly floured surface and knock back. Push the dough into a rectangle.

Basil puree on the dough.

  • Smear the dough with basil puree or pesto, you could add a few spinkles in here if you don’t have children who will moan about the bits! Roll up.
  • Wet the surface of the loaf and generously cover with the pack of sprinkles. Pressing the spinkles in gently as you go.
  • Allow the tomato and basil swirl loaf to rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Bake for 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, slice and go.
Doesn't last long!

Doesn’t last long!

According to my children, this crunch topped tomato and basil swirl loaf makes the BEST cheese on toast ever!

I was sent a selection of salad sprinkles to review by Sainsburys. I was given a voucher towards the cost of ingredients. I was not asked to give a positive review and all opinions are my own.



August 13, 2014 / mintcustard

Jewelled flapjacks with a yogurt drizzle.

Jewelled flapjacks

Jewelled flapjacks

I’m going to let you into a secret. I have a child who doesn’t like cake. Yes, I know, I was mortified as you can imagine. I’ve come to terms with it now. Fortunately she does like flapjacks, so today this recipe is for her.

Flapjacks are infinately pimpable. You can have them very plain and that’s wonderful or you can add all manner of bits and pieces according to your family tastes.  Today I added apricots and cranberries. Apricots, because the teen asked me to and cranberries because I had half a packet that needed to be used up. These jewelled flapjacks are chewy and not hard and crispy. cook these for another 5 to 10 minutes if you prefer them like that.

Jewelled flapjacks makes 12 good sized chunks.

200g porridge oats

150g butter

5 tbsp demerara sugar

4 tbsp golden syrup

1 handful of apricots finely chopped

1/2 a pack of dried cranberries

5 heaped dsp icing sugar

1 dsp yogurt

How to …

Preheat the oven to 190c

Line a 6″ by 12″baking tray with parchment.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan.

Stir in the oats. Fold in the extras. I used apricots and cranberries but any dried fruits, nuts or chocolate chips would work.

Tip into the pan, level out using the back ofa spoon and bake for 25 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Mix together the sifted icing sugar and the yogurt. Drizzle over the cool flapjack.

Put the kettle on and your feet up!

Jewelled flapjacks with a yogurt drizzle are ideal for picnics and dare I say it school lunchboxes!


August 10, 2014 / mintcustard

Pineapple upside down cake – a School Dinner recipe

Pineapple upside down cake

I loved being upside down.

Handstands should have given me ample opportunity to be upside down but they weren’t enough. Somewhere on most school grounds there was a metal handrail that called out to be swung on and rolled around. We weren’t bothered that the tarmac underneath was hard and neither was anyone else. If someone else had got to the bars first there was often a tree branch or a school fence that could be used to support our views of an upside down world. Hanging on just by your knees with your hands waving at your friends is one of the most carefree feelings I can remember. Turning upside down after pineapple upside down cake was not always a good idea. What you really needed to do was sit still and let it all go down. We didn’t of course and the sticky sweetness of this cake gave us huge amounts of energy that needed to be run off.

Exotic and exciting with a much loved sticky coating. Glace cherry lovers chose their seats carefully. Nestling between several cherry haters could gain you up to half a dozen extra red jewels on your plate. Taking the time to eat around the pineapple ring, saving the juice drenched sponge underneath was bliss.

Line a rectangular tin 6” x 10” with baking parchment.


3 eggs weighed in their shells

An equivalent weight of caster sugar

An equivalent weight of self raising flour

An equivalent weight of butter or margarine

1 tbsp pineapple juice

1 can pineapple rings or half a fresh pineapple cored and cut into rings or chunks.

3 glace cherries quartered. Fresh cherries would work here too, just pit them carefully.

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Vanilla extract

How to…. Heat the oven to 190C

  1. Line the base of the tin with parchment to prevent the pineapples and sugar from welding themselves to the tin.
  2. Drain the pineapple rings and reserve 1 tbsp of juice, or cut the fresh pineapple into rings/chunks.
  3. Sprinkle the brown sugar onto the parchment and lay out the pineapple rings evenly. Adorn the centre of each ring with half a glace cherry cut side up for the best aesthetics. If using chunks then spread the glace cherries out evenly.
  4. Weigh the eggs in their shells; now weigh out an equal weight to the eggs of sugar, butter and self raising flour.
  5. Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes paler in colour and lighter in texture.
  6. Beat in the eggs one at a time. If the mixture starts to look a little grainy add a spoonful of the weighed out flour.
  7. Fold in the remaining flour carefully. Slacken the mixture with 1 tbsp of the reserved pineapple juice and a half tsp of vanilla extract. If you use the fresh pineapple and have no juice, milk will do fine.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the tin evenly and smooth out trying not to disturb the cherries.
  9. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and well risen. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes. Turn out and carefully peal back the paper to reveal the cake in all its golden and glistening glory.

This recipe is one of many take from Good Old fashioned School Dinners by Becky Thorn Pub by Anova


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